Book Review – THE SUCCESSFUL AUTHOR MINDSET by Joanna Penn

THE SUCCESSFUL AUTHOR MINDSET by Joanna Penn

THE SUCCESSFUL AUTHOR MINDSET by Joanna Penn

Synopsis
Being a writer is not just about typing. It’s also about surviving the roller-coaster of the creative journey.

Self-doubt, fear of failure, the need for validation, perfectionism, writer’s block, comparisonitis, overwhelm, and much more. When you’re going through these things, it can feel like you’re alone. But actually, they are part of the creative process, and every author goes through them too.

This book collects the mindset issues that writers experience, that I have been through myself over the last nine years, and that perhaps you will experience at different times on the creative journey.

Each small chapter tackles a possible issue and then offers an antidote, so that you can dip in and out over time. It includes excerpts from my own personal journals as well as quotes from well-known writers. I hope it helps you on the road to becoming a successful author.

.

.

.

.

.

—————————————————————————-

My Review
This book is full of helpful advice on how to be a writer, everything from handling self-doubt and rejections to finding your tribe. Peppered with quotes from successful authors as well as the author’s own journey, not everything will apply to every writer. I found myself skimming many portions of the book, but I suspect that’s the author’s intent — find the pieces that you can relate to and devour them, but move on if it doesn’t apply to you. I found much that did apply to me though and I highlighted a number of passages, including:

Think long term. Create a body of work.

This one really resonates. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the end of the current work in progress. To only think about the upcoming release day, but writing isn’t a trip with a start and end point, it’s a journey, a career. Even in all the years I worked as a project manager, with one eye on the end-date of my current project, I knew another contract needing my attention was on the horizon.

 

Bottom Line
Lots of good advice on surviving the writing process.

—————————————————————————-

About the Book
Title
: THE SUCCESSFUL AUTHOR MINDSET: A Handbook for Surviving the Writer’s Journey
Author: Joanna Penn
Publisher: The Creative Penn, Ltd.
Publication Date: June 29, 2016
Pages: 166
Category: Writing
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble

—————————————————————————-

Author Joanna Penn

Author Joanna Penn

About the Author
Joanna Penn is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of thrillers writing under the name J.F. Penn. She also writes inspirational non-fiction for authors and is an award-winning creative entrepreneur and international professional speaker. Her site, TheCreativePenn.com is regularly voted one of the top 10 sites for writers and self-publishers.

.

.

.

.

Where to find Joanna Penn
Goodreads | Website | Twitter
.

Book Review – WRITING GREAT BOOKS FOR YOUNG ADULTS by Regina L. Brooks

WRITING GREAT BOOKS FOR YOUNG ADULTS by Regina L. Brooks

WRITING GREAT BOOKS FOR YOUNG ADULTS by Regina L. Brooks

Synopsis
Break into the Bestselling Young Adult Market with this IndispensableGuide!

Whether you’re just getting started or are on the hunt foran agent or publisher, Writing Great Books for Young Adults is your completeinsider source on how to succeed in the flourishing world of YA fiction andnonfiction. In this updated and revised edition, veteran literary agent ReginaL. Brooks offers invaluable advice for YA writers on everything from shapingyour novel to crafting the perfect pitch for your book.

Learn How To:
�Develop an authentic, engaging voice and writing style
�Construct dynamic plots that will resonate with readers
�Avoid common pitfalls related to tone and point of view
�Navigate the emerging genres of YA nonfiction and New Adult
�Create an exceptional query letter and proposal that will grab the attention of agents and publishers

You’ll also discover how successful film adaptations like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games have broadened the market for your book.Filled with tips and advice from agents, editors, and popular YA authors,Writing Great Books for Young Adults is your ticket to an incredible YA career!

“Brooks offers writers who are serious about attracting teen readers solid guidance through the creation process of writing YA fiction.”—LibraryJournal

.

—————————————————————————-

My Review
This one has been sitting on my bookshelf for a while, and I think I might have found it more useful if I’d read it when I first bought it a few years ago. There’s certainly useful tidbits throughout, but it’s neither a how-to nor a definitive resource on all things young adult fiction. Instead, it’s an overview of fiction writing with additional information on what makes writing for young adults different from writing for adults. It’s pretty void of details, but the overall concepts the author touches on are critical to success. I found the most useful information in Chapter 9 on theme. Depending on where you find your own writing lacking, you may discover something to help you as well.

Bottom Line
Useful information at a high level, but not much depth.

—————————————————————————-

About the Book
Title
: WRITING GREAT BOOKS FOR YOUNG ADULTS: Everything You Need to Know, from Crafting the Idea to Getting Published
Author: Regina L. Brooks
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication Date: October 17, 2014
Pages: 225
Category: Fiction Writing
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble

—————————————————————————-

Author Regina Brooks

Author Regina Brooks

About the Author
Regina Brooks is an award-winning author and literary expert with an indefatigable passion for guiding the careers of some of the publishing worlds best and brightest stars. As the founder and president of Serendipity Literary Agency LLC., a full-service company based in Brooklyn, NY, which was hailed by Writers Digest Magazine as one of the top 25 literary agencies of 2004, Ms. Brooks continues to break down barriers and shape the literary landscape by signing authors who challenge the written word.

Led by Ms. Brooks, Serendipity Literary Agency LLC., has established a diverse base of award-winning authors in the adult and young adult fiction, non-fiction, and children’s genres; including three-time National Book Award finalist, Newberry and Coretta Scott King award-winning author Marilyn Nelson, and Coretta Scott King Award winner, Sundee Frazier, author of Brendan Buckleys Universe and Everything in it, an Oprah Book Pick and an Al Roker Book Club selection.

With over fifteen years of experience in senior positions at major publishing houses, including John Wiley & Sons Inc (where she was the youngest member of the editorial staff and the first African-American editor in their college division) and the McGraw-Hill companies, Ms. Brooks, a graduate of the Howard University Publishing Institute and faculty member of the Harvard CME publishing course, is also the author of the childrens book, Never Finished! Never Done! (Scholastic, 2004). She is a book blogger for the Huffingtonpost.com

Ms. Brooks is also the founder and executive director of YB Literary Foundation, Inc., a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to promote the reading of literature as a meaningful, lifelong activity and transformative experience for youth. Much to her delight, this aspect of her charitable work in particular keeps her apprised of the latest teen trends. Through a roster of community-focused programming that draws on popular culture, YBs goal is to expose youth to literature that is relevant to their livesliterature that speaks to their realities, their experiences and to their potential as future leaders. The organization has touched thousands of high school students in the NY/NJ area alone. Under her guidance, the YB Literary Foundation established a partnership with The National Urban League to launch the hiphopreader.com program.

A New York Urban League Rising Star Award winner and a 2004 finalist for the StevieTM Award for Women Entrepreneurs, Regina Brooks is featured in books such as The Guide to Literary Agents and the NAACP nominated Down to Business 10 steps for Women Entrepreneurs. She is also listed in International Who’s Who under the categories of Professional Management, Technology, Entrepreneurs, and Engineering.

Ms. Brooks serves on the board of Soul Mountain Literary Retreat Center and is a member of the Brooklyn Book Festival Committee for Childrens and Young Adult Literature. An active member of the National Association of Female Executives and NY Women in Television and Film and a member of the National Association of Professional Women, she lectures at over a dozen conferences annually, including the Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), Bologna Book Fair and the American Library Association.

Where to find Regina L. Brooks
Goodreads | Website | Twitter
.

Book Review – CHARACTERIZATION AND SENSORY DETAIL (Writing Active Setting) by Mary Buckham

CHARACTERIZATION AND SENSORY DETAIL (Writing Active Setting #1) by Mary Buckham

CHARACTERIZATION AND SENSORY DETAIL (Writing Active Setting #1) by Mary Buckham

Synopsis
Readers usually remember the plot and characters of a story, but setting is every bit as important in creating a memorable world. Discover the difference between Ordinary Setting that bogs down your story, and Active Setting that empowers your story — creating a compelling story world, regardless of what you write.

* See how to spin boring descriptions into engaging prose.
* Learn to deepen the reader’s experience of your story world through sensory details.
* Notice how changing characters’ POV can change your setting.
* Explore ways to maximize the setting possibilities in your story.

WRITING ACTIVE SETTING is a powerful combination of fresh insights, practical examples, and how-to advice on the often overlooked but critical element of Setting … written in a quick-to-read and easy-to-understand style, and packed with useful application exercises. ~~ Kelly L. Stone, author of THINKING WRITE: The Secret to Freeing Your Creative Mind

.

.

.

.

.

 —————————————————————————-

My Review
This is my favorite book on the craft of writing so far this year. To say my scene setting needs work would be a massive understatement. This first in a three-book series, is a fast read packed with tons of helpful advice and examples to drive Buckham’s point home. I immediately applied the lessons learned to my latest manuscript and ran to Amazon to buy the next two books in the series. With chapters like, Subtext in Setting, and Revealing Character Through Setting, I was able to quickly grasp where my writing was lacking and make corrections. Every pass I make, I look for ways to incorporate what I learned from this book. The common sense approach and relatable writing style of Mary Buckham makes this an outstanding resource for the writer at any stages of their journey.

Bottom Line
An outstanding resource on writing setting for fiction and nonfiction alike.

 —————————————————————————-

About the Book
Title
:  CHARACTERIZATION AND SENSORY DETAIL
Series: Writing Active Setting #1
Author: Mary Buckham
Publisher: Cantwell Publishing, LLC
Publication Date: October 7, 2013
Pages: 59
Category: Fiction Writing
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay

 —————————————————————————-

Author Mary Buckham

Author Mary Buckham

About the Author
USA Today bestselling author Mary Buckham credits her years of international travel and curiosity about different cultures that resulted in creating high-concept urban fantasy and romantic suspense stories. Her newest Invisible Recruit series has been touted for the unique voice, high action and rich emotion. A prolific writer, Mary also co-authors the young adult sci-fi/fantasy Red Moon series with NYT bestseller Dianna Love. Mary lives in Washington State with her husband and, when not crafting a new adventure, she travels the country researching settings and teaching other writers. Don’t miss her latest reference book Writing Active Setting.

Currently she is neck-deep into writing an Urban Fantasy series centered around five women drafted to combat preternatural beings agitating for world domination. The INVISIBLE RECRUIT series combines a fantasy/paranormal element with high stakes and the pace of action adventure stories. Mary loves creating thrills, spills and spells as she follows the ups and downs of fascinating characters starting with Alex Noziak, the heroine of INVISIBLE MAGIC, INVISIBLE FATE and INVISIBLE POWER.

Where to find Mary Buckham
Goodreads Website | FacebookTwitter | Pinterest
.

Book Review – MASTERING SUSPENSE, STRUCTURE, AND PLOT by Jane K. Cleland

MASTERING SUSPENSE, STRUCTURE, AND PLOT by Jane K. Cleland

MASTERING SUSPENSE, STRUCTURE, AND PLOT by Jane K. Cleland

Synopsis
Enthrall Your Readers!

Suspense is one of the most powerful tools a writer has for captivating readers–but it isn’t just for thrillers. From mainstream fiction to memoir, suspense creates the emotional tension that keeps readers on the edge of their seats. Mastering Suspense, Structure, & Plot is your hands-on guide to weaving suspense into your narrative. Award-winning author Jane K. Cleland teaches you how to navigate genre conventions, write for your audience, and build gripping tension to craft an irresistible page-turner.

Inside, Cleland will show you how to:
Implement thirteen no-fail techniques to construct an effective plot and structure for your story Use Cleland’s Plotting Road Map to add elements of suspense like twists, reversals, and moments of danger Write subplots with purpose Improve your descriptions, character development, sentence structure, and more Packed with case studies, exercises, and dozens of examples from best-selling authors, Mastering Suspense, Structure, & Plot is the key to writing suspenseful, engaging stories that leave your readers wanting more.

——
“Indispensable! For newbie authors and veterans alike, this terrific how-to is your new go-to. Don’t write your book without it–it’s a treasure.” —Hank Phillippi Ryan, Agatha, Anthony, Macavity and Mary Higgins Clark award-winning author

 —————————————————————————-

My Review
One of my New Year’s resolutions was to read at least twelve books on craft this year. This is my second of 2017. Regardless of what you write, adding a little suspense will always lead to a better story. I found the recommendations in this book on creating, adding, and the pacing of suspenseful elements to be quite useful. There is also a lot of information on structuring and plotting your story. The author includes lots of examples from both fiction and narrative nonfiction which helps drive her points home. I learned some helpful tips, and a lot information I’d previously learned was reinforced. One of my biggest weaknesses is scene setting and she provides numerous ideas on how to improve this aspect of your writing

Bottom Line
I found much to like in this book, from new ideas to reinforcing previous ideas.

 —————————————————————————-

About the Book
Title
: MASTERING SUSPENSE, STRUCTURE, AND PLOT: How to Write Gripping Stories That Keep Readers on the Edge of Their Seats
Author: Jane K. Cleland
Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books
Publication Date: March 31, 2016
Pages: 242
Category: Fiction Writing
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble | Writer’s Digest

 —————————————————————————-

Author Jane K. Cleland

Author Jane K. Cleland

About the Author
Jane K. Cleland’s multiple award-winning and IMBA best selling Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery series [St. Martin’s Minotaur] has been reviewed as an Antiques Roadshow for mystery fans. Library Journal named Consigned to Death a “core title” for librarians looking to build a cozy collection, one of only 22 titles listed, along with books by Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers. The full article is at www.libraryjournal.com. “Josie” stories have also appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.

Jane chairs the Black Orchid Novella Award, one of the Wolfe Pack’s literary awards, granted in partnership with Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. She is a past chapter president of the Mystery Writers of America/New York Chapter and served on the national board as well. Additionally, Jane is the host of the Writer’s Room, a series of interviews with today’s bestselling crime fiction authors that appear on cable television and online.

Jane also writes noir and comedic plays around the theme of women who love men they hate.

Jane has both an MFA (in professional and creative writing) and an MBA (in marketing and management). She’s on the faculty of Lehman College, part of the City University of New York (CUNY) system. She also mentors MFA students in Western Connecticut State University’s MFA in Creative & Professional Writing program and is a frequent guest author at other university programs..

Where to find Jane K. Cleland
Goodreads Website | FacebookTwitter
.

Book Review – How to Write Dazzling Dialogue by James Scott Bell

How to Write Dazzling Dialogue by James Scott Bell

How to Write Dazzling Dialogue by James Scott Bell

Synopsis
There is one sure-fire way of improving your novel fast. . .

You may know the fundamentals of how to write fiction. You may be more than competent in plot, structure and characters. But if your dialogue is dull it will drag the whole story down.

On the other hand, if your dialogue is crisp and full of tension it immediately grabs the reader. And if that reader is an agent or editor, sharp dialogue will give them instant assurance that you know what you’re doing as a writer.

Writing a bestseller or hot screenplay is no easy task, but dazzling dialogue is an absolute essential if you want to get there.

The best part is, the skills of the dialogue craft are easy to understand and put into practice. #1 bestselling writing coach James Scott Bell has put together and expanded upon the dialogue lectures from his popular writing seminars. In How to Write Dazzling Dialogue you’ll learn:

What fictional dialogue is … and isn’t
The 11 secrets of crafting memorable dialogue
The 5 essential tasks of dialogue
5 ways to improve your dialogue ear
4 can’t-miss methods to increase conflict and tension in any dialogue exchange
The top 10 dialogue issues, and how to resolve them

You’ll also see dazzling dialogue in action with examples from hit novels and screenplays.

Don’t sabotage your chances of selling your work to readers or publishers because the dialogue is unexceptional. Dazzle them with what the characters say. How to Write Dazzling Dialogue will give you the tools to do it. .

——————————————————————

My Review
I had this on my wish list and was given it as a Christmas gift. I cracked it shortly after breakfast Christmas morning and found it quite an easy read. There’s a little bit of something for everyone between the covers. Both those new to writing fiction as well as more seasoned writers should find something useful. The new writer will benefit greatly from Chapter 7 which discusses the proper way to format and punctuate dialogue. A number of unique exercises will help experienced authors stretch outside their comfort zone. The book is filled with helpful examples of both good and bad dialogue to really drive the author’s point.

Bottom Line
A useful book on the craft of writing dialogue that will help both new and experienced fiction writers.

Title: How to Write Dazzling Dialogue: The Fastest Way to Improve Any Manuscript
Author: James Scott Bell
Publisher: Compendium Press
Publication Date: May 28, 2014
Pages: 135
Category: Fiction Writing
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble

——————————————————————

Author James Scott Bell

Author James Scott Bell

About the Author
Jim is a former trial lawyer who now writes and speaks full time. He is the bestselling author of Try Dying, No Legal Grounds, Presumed Guilty, Glimpses of Paradise, Breach of Promise and several other thrillers. He is a winner of the Christy Award for Excellence in Inspirational Fiction, and was a fiction columnist for Writers Digest magazine. He has written two books in the Writers’ Digest series, Write Great Fiction: Plot & Structure and Revision & Self-Editing.

Jim has taught writing at Pepperdine University and numerous writers conferences. He attended the University of California, Santa Barbara where he studied writing with Raymond Carver.

.

.

Where to find James Scott Bell
Goodreads Website | FacebookTwitter
.

Book Review – The Early To Rise Experience – Learn To Rise Early in 30 Days by Andy Traub

The Early To Rise Experience - Learn To Rise Early in 30 Days by Andy Traub

The Early To Rise Experience – Learn To Rise Early in 30 Days by Andy Traub

Synopsis
love being up early. If you’re willing to take one minute a day to change your life then you can become an early riser. I wrote this book because as a father of three kids under five I needed time to work on myself and my business without neglecting my family. I found that time in the morning and it has changed my life forever.

You need more than a book to build a habit

Inside the book are instructions to sign up for 30 days of emails from me. Each day I’ll email you that day’s passage as well as the audio of the same passage. You need encouragement every day for this challenge and we use multiple ways to help you build your habit.

Daily emails
Facebook group – Search for EarlyToRiseBook
Twitter connection using the hashtag #EarlyToRise
Updated resources at our EarlyToRiseBook website.

You can change your life if you’re willing to change what time you wake up in the morning. This book helps you achieve building that habit.

.

.

——————————————————————

My Review
I really hate leaving bad reviews, but this book just didn’t do it for me. That doesn’t mean it’s not the book for you, though. I originally started reading Early to Rise two years ago when I was looking for more time in my day. Getting up at 5:30 a.m. seemed like the perfect solution, and all I needed was the right motivation. Hence, I bought this book. The first portion delves into the various reasons someone wants to rise early. Since I picked up a copy of the book, I already had a good reason and other people’s reasons weren’t really of interest to me so I ended up skimming the beginning.

The next few sections focused on various exercises to help me rise a little earlier each day, such as going to bed 15 minutes earlier the night before and setting my alarm an equal number of minutes earlier for the morning. This progress is then repeated until I was able to get up at my desired hour. This approach was just a little too basic for me. Sure, there’s more to the book than that, but not much I personally found useful.

In the end, it boils down to whether or not getting up earlier in the morning is productive for you. I didn’t find that extra hour productive at all. Mostly I was fuzzy-headed, trying to find two brain cells to rub together. After six months of my new routine, it finally hit me that I’m my most productive in the early afternoon. No matter what time I get up or go to bed, that’s my sweet spot. I’ve adjusted my schedule to make the most of my productive time. This is what I needed, and what I ultimately took from the book, but I think another book would have gotten me to that point a lot faster.

Bottom Line
A lot of people have found this book useful. I’m not one of them, but it might just be exactly what you need.

Title: The Early To Rise Experience: Learn To Rise Early in 30 Days
Author: Andy Traub
Publisher: Take Permission Media Press
Publication Date: January 25, 2013
Pages: 140
Category: Self Help/Productivity
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble

——————————————————————

Author Andy Traub

Author Andy Traub

About the Author
Andy Traub is a creator. Whether it’s a podcast, book, blog post or speech, his message is the same. You must take permission if you want to live a great life, create great art, and positively impact the world.

In 2010 Seth Godin gave him permission to produce The Unofficial Linchpin Podcast. In that same year he partnered with Cliff Ravenscraft, the world’s most popular podcast consultant, to create a technology show called Business Tech Weekly. He has worked with or been a guest on shows with thought leaders like Michael Hyatt, Todd Henry, Chris LoCurto, Jeff Goins, Jon Acuff, Dan Miller and Andy Andrews.

In early 2013 Andy self-published his first book The Early To Rise Experience: Learn To Rise Early in 30 Days. His book was a tremendous success and in late 2013 he published two follow up books to the Early To Rise Experience, both written by and for moms who want to learn to rise early. In mid-2013 he created The Self-Publishing System to teach other authors how to market and sell more digital copies of their books.

Where to find Andy Traub
Goodreads Website | FacebookTwitter
.

Book Review – Plot Perfect – How to Build Unforgettable Stories Scene by Scene by Paula Munier

Plot Perfect - How to Build Unforgettable Stories Scene by Scene by Paula Munier

Plot Perfect – How to Build Unforgettable Stories Scene by Scene by Paula Munier

Synopsis
Build an Exceptional Plot, One Scene at a Time!

Think of your favorite story–the one that kept you turning pages late into the night, the one with a plot so compelling, so multilayered, so perfect that you couldn’t put it down. How can you make your own plots–in your novels, short stories, memoirs, or screenplays–just as irresistible?

“Plot Perfect” provides the answer. This one-of-a-kind plotting primer reveals the secrets of creating a story structure that works–no matter what your genre. It gives you the strategies you need to build a scene-by-scene blueprint that will help elevate your fiction and earn the attention of agents and editors.

Inside, literary agent, editor, and author Paula Munier shows you how to:
Devise powerful plots and subplots and weave them together seamlessly
Organize your scenes for the greatest impact
Develop captivating protagonists, worthy antagonists, and engaging secondary characters
Use dialogue, setting, tone, and voice to enhance your plot
Layer, refine, and polish your storyline
Define your story in terms of its theme

Filled with writing exercises, plotting templates, and expert advice, “Plot Perfect” helps you dive into the intricacies of plot–and write a compelling story that readers won’t be able to resist.

——————————————————————

My Review
This is one of the best books I’ve read on structuring plot, regardless of genre. Packed with examples, checklists, and exercises, this book explains in plain English how to outline your novel to ensure your plot zings, you’ve built in layers of subplot, and your theme is expertly woven. Plot Perfect covers all aspects of writing fiction, albeit at a high level. It contains the building blocks necessary to create a plot that works with developed characters that reflect your story’s theme. It’s an excellent resource for both planners and pantsers. Even writers who don’t outline will benefit from understanding how story works as they hammer out a first draft by the seat of their pants. I had an outline of a book I was working on, and as I was reading Plot Perfect, I revised my outline after noting several problems with it.

Bottom Line
Plot Perfect is a great resource for novelists of all genres at every stage of their careers.

Title: Plot Perfect: How to Build Unforgettable Stories Scene by Scene
Author: Paula Munier
Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books
Publication Date: October 17, 2014
Pages: 281
Category: Writing Fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Powell’s

——————————————————————

Author Paula Munier

Author Paula Munier

About the Author
My professional evolution mirrors that of publishing itself. From my early days as a reporter to my latest incarnation as all-around content queen and bottle washer, I’ve reinvented myself as the publishing industry has changed–and keeps on changing. The only constant: My love of the written word.

Over my 20-plus years in the business, I’ve conceived, created, produced, and marketed exceptional content in all formats across all markets for such media giants as WGBH, Fidelity, Disney, Gannett, F+W Media, Quarto, Greenspun Media Group, among others. I’ve written my own work as well, including Writing With Quiet Hands: How to Shape Your Writing to Resonate with Readers, Plot Perfect: How to Build Unforgettable Stories Scene by Scene, and the acclaimed memoir Fixing Freddie.

In 2012, I joined Talcott Notch LIterary Services as Senior Agent and Content Strategist. I’m always looking for good crime fiction, women’s fiction, mainstream fiction, high-concept YA and SF/Fantasy fiction, as well as nonfiction.

My mission: To tell great stories and sell great stories. Why? Because the world needs them.

Where to find Paula Munier
Goodreads Website | FacebookTwitter
.

 

Book Review – Writing Fiction — A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway, Elizabeth Stuckey-French, and Ned Stuckey-French

Writing Fiction -- A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway, Elizabeth Stuckey-French, and Ned Stuckey-French

Writing Fiction — A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway, Elizabeth Stuckey-French, and Ned Stuckey-French

Synopsis
The most widely used and respected text in its field, Writing Fiction, 7e by novelists Janet Burroway and Elizabeth Stuckey-French guides the novice story writer from first inspiration to final revision by providing practical writing techniques and concrete examples. Written in a tone that is personal and non-prescriptive, the text encourages students to develop proficiency through each step of the writing process, offering an abundance of exercises designed to spur writing and creativity.  The text also integrates diverse contemporary short stories in every chapter in the belief that the reading of inspiring fiction goes hand-in-hand with the writing of fresh and exciting stories.

A bestseller through six editions,Writing Fiction by novelists Janet Burroway and Elizabeth Stuckey-French explores the elements of fiction, providing practical writing techniques and concrete examples. Written in a tone that is personal and non-prescriptive, this book encourages writers to develop proficiency through each step of the writing process, offering an abundance of exercises designed to spur writing and creativity. The text Writing Fiction also integrates diverse contemporary short stories in every chapter in the belief that the reading of inspiring fiction goes hand-in-hand with the writing of fresh and exciting stories.

Thorough and practical discussions of all the major fictional elements offer readers a comprehensive guide to the craft of writing stories.  Topics include freewriting, plot, style, characterization, dialogue, time, place, imagery, and point of view.

For novice writers looking to develop proficiency.

——————————————————————

My Review
This is a comprehensive book on craft that starts with the basics and works deeper with solid examples that drive the point home. With detailed chapters on the process of writing, showing vs. telling, and creating three-dimensional characters and settings, this may be the penultimate book for beginning writers. Even intermediate writers will find reminders about all the things we’re doing wrong that we knew were wrong, but forgot we were doing. Filled with vivid examples to illustrate every lesson, the book even has a few things for more seasoned writers.

New writers often have the hardest time grasping the concept of showing vs. telling, and this section in Writing Fiction is one of the best yet I’ve read, teaching the difference between the two with well-written examples perfectly re-written to ensure the lesson is learned. The section on characterization is exceptionally thorough, delving into great detail on what makes good characters and what makes great characters. All stories need good characters, but the best stories have great characters.

With about one-third examples and writing exercises and two-thirds instruction, I firmly believe this is the first book every aspiring fiction writer should pick up and study.

Bottom Line
Writing Fiction is expensive, but worth every penny. This is the textbook every aspiring novelist needs to read.

Title: Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft
Authors: Janet Burroway, Elizabeth Stuckey-French, and Ned Stuckey-French
Publisher: Longman
Publication Date: February 2, 2014
Pages: 400
Category: Writing Fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble

——————————————————————

Author Janet Burroway

Author Janet Burroway

About Janet Burroway
Janet Burroway is the author of seven novels including The Buzzards, Raw Silk (runner up for the national Book award), Opening Nights, and Cutting Stone; a volume of poetry,Material Goods; a collection of essays, Embalming Mom; and two children’s books, The Truck on the Track and The Giant Jam Sandwich. Her most recent plays, Medea With Child, Sweepstakes, Division of Property, and Parts of Speech, have received readings and productions in New York, London, San Francisco, Hollywood, and various regional theatres.

Her Writing Fiction is the most widely used creative writing text in America, and a multi-genre textbook, Imaginative Writing, appeared in 2002. A B.A. from Barnard College and M.A. from Cambridge University, England, she was Yale School of Drama RCA-NBC Fellow 1960-61, and is Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor Emerita at the Florida State University in Tallahassee.

Where to find Janet Burroway
Goodreads Website | Twitter

——————————————————————

Author Elizabeth Stuckey-French

Author Elizabeth Stuckey-French

About Elizabeth Stuckey-French
Elizabeth Stuckey-French is the author of a novel, Mermaids on the Moon, a collection of short stories, The First Paper Girl in Red Oak Iowa, and, with Janet Burroway, Writing Fiction: A Guide to the Narrative Craft.

Her new novel, The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady, is forthcoming from Doubleday in spring 2011. Her short stories have appeared in The Normal School, Narrative Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, Gettysburg Review, Southern Review, Five Points, and The O’Henry Prize Stories 2005.

She was awarded a James Michener Fellowship and has won grants from the Howard Foundation, the Indiana Arts Foundation, and the Florida Arts Foundation. She teaches fiction writing at Florida State University.

Where to find Elizabeth Stuckey-French
Goodreads Website | Facebook

——————————————————————

Author Ned Stuckey-French

Author Ned Stuckey-French

About Ned Stuckey-French
Ned Stuckey-French teaches at Florida State University and is book review editor of Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction.

He is the author of The American Essay in the American Century (University of Missouri Press, forthcoming May 2011), co-editor (with Carl Klaus) of Essayists on the Essay: Four Centuries of Commentary (University of Iowa Press, forthcoming fall 2011), and coauthor (with Janet Burroway and Elizabeth Stuckey-French) of Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft (Longman, 8th edition).

His articles and essays have appeared in journals and magazines such as In These Times, The Missouri Review, The Iowa Review, Walking Magazine, culture front, Pinch, Guernica, and American Literature, and have been listed three times among the notable essays of the year in Best American Essays.

Where to find Ned Stuckey-French
Goodreads Website | Twitter

.

Month in Review – December 2015

Two weeks late, but you know, the holidays… Also, some front yard landscaping, and Aussie exchange student for eleven days, and final edits and publishing of The Uprising (which comes out on Tuesday!). Better late than never. Here are the books I read and reviewed in December, 2015.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Story: 4 Stars
Audiobook: 5 Stars

Title: Gone Girl
Author: 
Gillian Flynn
Release Date: 
May 24, 2012
Publisher:
Random House Audible
Narrators:
Julia Whelan and Kirby Heyborne
Length:
19 Hours 11 Minutes
Genre:
 Contemporary Mystery/Thriller/Suspense
Story Rating: 
4 out of 5 Stars
Audio Production Rating:
 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | AudibleAmazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis
On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge.

Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

Bottom Line
Gone Girl is a disturbing tale, beautifully written, and the audiobook version is one of the best produced I’ve ever listened to.

—————————————————————-

Bad Romance: A Stepbrother Novel by by Jen McLaughlin

Bad Romance A Stepbrother Novel by by Jen McLaughlin

Bad Romance A Stepbrother Novel by by Jen McLaughlin

4 Stars

Title: Bad Romance: A Stepbrother Novel
Author: 
Jen McLauchlin
Publisher: 
Loveswept
Release Date: 
September 15, 2015
Pages:
242
Genre: 
New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 
4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Synopsis
In this explosive novel from New York Times bestselling author Jen McLaughlin, a good girl falls for the ultimate bad boy: her stepbrother. Perfect for fans of Sabrina Paige, Caitlin Daire, and Krista Lakes, Bad Romance proves that passion can be so wrong it’s right.

Seven years in the army will change a guy. But after a shoulder wound ends his career as a sniper, Jackson Worthington finds himself back home, fighting a battle that’s all too familiar: keeping his hands off Lily Hastings. She’s still her rich daddy’s little angel, innocent, impossibly lovely, as squeaky-clean as Jackson is dirty. And she’s still his stepsister—forbidden but not forgotten, not after the soul-melting kiss that got him kicked out of the house at eighteen. He couldn’t resist her then. How the hell can he resist her now?

Lily is about to marry a man she doesn’t love, and commit to a high-stress job she hates, all to please the father who controls every waking moment of her life. On top of everything, her teenage crush is back, with a sleek, chiseled body and a trace of the rebellious boy whose lips sealed her fate. Jackson’s timing couldn’t be worse . . . or better. Because Lily’s all grown up, too. She’s aching for another taste. And for the first time, she’s ready to be a bad girl.

Bottom Line
Bad Romance is a page-turning romance about forbidden love and learning to live your own life.

—————————————————————-

Royal Marriage Market by Heather Lyons

Royal Marriage Market by Heather Lyons

Royal Marriage Market by Heather Lyons

4.5 Stars

Title: Royal Marriage Market
Author: Heather Lyons
Publisher: Cerulean Books
Release Date: December 15, 2015
Pages: 335
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | iBooks | Kobo

Synopsis
Every decade, the world’s monarchs and their heirs secretly convene to discuss global politics and social issues—and arrange marriages between kingdoms. Elsa may be the Hereditary Princess of Vattenguldia, but she finds the entire situation archaic and unsavory. While she wants what’s best for her country, she isn’t about to jump into an unwanted relationship—let alone a marriage—with a virtual stranger. Of course, her feelings matter little to her parents, whose wheeling and dealings over trade pacts and alliances achieved at her expense begin the moment they set foot in California for the Summit. So when a blindingly handsome royal runs into her, she doesn’t hesitate to tell him there’s no way she’s marrying him.

Christian is all too happy to agree: no marriage. As the Hereditary Grand Duke of Aiboland, his main goal is to get through the summit without a bride being foisted on him. Which is why he suggests they help each other field potential intendeds. As Christian slowly gets to know Elsa, though, he realizes they have a lot more in common than just their feelings about the Royal Marriage Market. Only he can’t fall for her, because royal or not, they’re not meant for each other. Elsa and Christian will have to evaluate matters of the heart verses those of state and crown, and decide whether or not tradition trumps love.

Bottom Line
Royal Marriage Market is a fun twist on the contemporary romance genre with plenty of chemistry and more than a few laughs.

—————————————————————-

The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus by Fred White

The Writer's Idea Thesaurus by Fred White

The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus by Fred White

3.5 Stars

Title: The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus: An Interactive Guide for Developing Ideas for Novels and Short Stories
Author: Fred White
Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books
Publication Date: September 30, 2014
Pages: 320
Category: Writing Fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis
Endless ideas at your fingertips, and at the turn of a page…

Need an idea for a short story or novel? Look no further than The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus. It’s far more than a collection of simple writing prompts. You’ll find a vast treasury of story ideas inside, organized by subject, theme, and situation categories, and listed alphabetically for easy reference. Author and award-winning writing instructor Fred White shows you how to build out and customize these ideas to create unique plots that reflect your personal storytelling sensibilities, making The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus an invaluable tool for generating creative ideas and vanquishing writer’s block—for good.

Inside you’ll find:
•2,000 unique and dynamic story ideas perfect for novels and short stories of any genre or writing style
•Twenty major idea categories, such as The Invasion of X, The Transformation of X into Y, Escape from X, The Curse of X, and more
•Multiple situations that further refine the major categories, such as The Creation of Artificial Life, The Descent Into Madness, Love in the Workplace, The Journey to a Forgotten Realm, and more
•Invaluable advice on how to customize each idea.

The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus is an interactive story generator that opens the door to thousands of new story arcs and plotlines.

 Bottom Line
The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus lives up to its name as a unique reference guide to aid writers in developing story ideas.

—————————————————————-

Next Door to a Star (Star Series) by Krysten Lindsay Hagar

Next Door to a Star by Krysten Lindsay Hagar

Next Door to a Star by Krysten Lindsay Hagar

4 Stars

Title: Next Door to a Star
Series: Star Series #1
Author:
Krysten Lindsay Hagar
Publisher: Limitless Publishing, LLC
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Pages: 185
Genre: 
Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon InternationalBarnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | BAM!

Synopsis
Hadley Daniels is tired of feeling invisible. After Hadley’s best friend moves away and she gets on the bad side of some girls at school, she goes to spend the summer with her grandparents in the Lake Michigan resort town of Grand Haven. Her next door neighbor is none other than teen TV star Simone Hendrickson, who is everything Hadley longs to be—pretty, popular, and famous—and she’s thrilled when Simone treats her like a friend. Being popular is a lot harder than it looks.

It’s fun and flattering when Simone includes her in her circle, though Hadley is puzzled about why her new friend refuses to discuss her former Hollywood life. Caught up with Simone, Hadley finds herself ignoring her quiet, steadfast friend, Charlotte. To make things even more complicated, along comes Nick Jenkins… He’s sweet, good-looking, and Hadley can be herself around him without all the fake drama. However, the mean girls have other ideas and they fill Nick’s head with lies about Hadley, sending him running back to his ex-girlfriend and leaving Hadley heartbroken.

So when her parents decide to relocate to Grand Haven, Hadley hopes things will change when school starts…only to be disappointed once again. Cliques. Back-stabbing. Love gone bad. Is this really what it’s like to live…Next Door To A Star?

Bottom Line
While Next Door to a Star moves slow at times, it’s filled with a colorful cast of young teens who think and act like the kids on the cusp of adulthood they are.
.

Book Review – The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus by Fred White

The Writer's Idea Thesaurus by Fred White

The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus by Fred White

Synopsis
Endless ideas at your fingertips, and at the turn of a page…

Need an idea for a short story or novel? Look no further than The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus. It’s far more than a collection of simple writing prompts. You’ll find a vast treasury of story ideas inside, organized by subject, theme, and situation categories, and listed alphabetically for easy reference.

Author and award-winning writing instructor Fred White shows you how to build out and customize these ideas to create unique plots that reflect your personal storytelling sensibilities, making The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus an invaluable tool for generating creative ideas and vanquishing writer’s block—for good.

Inside you’ll find:
•2,000 unique and dynamic story ideas perfect for novels and short stories of any genre or writing style
•Twenty major idea categories, such as The Invasion of X, The Transformation of X into Y, Escape from X, The Curse of X, and more
•Multiple situations that further refine the major categories, such as The Creation of Artificial Life, The Descent Into Madness, Love in the Workplace, The Journey to a Forgotten Realm, and more
•Invaluable advice on how to customize each idea.

The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus is an interactive story generator that opens the door to thousands of new story arcs and plotlines.

My Review
The concept behind The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus intrigued me. I don’t suffer from a lack of story ideas, but sometimes in fleshing them out, I need a little inspiration. It’s definitely an interesting concept, but I found it a little overwhelming. I tried to consume it the way I do most books, by starting at the front and working my way to the back. It’s really designed to allow you to jump around, so I gave that a try next. Ultimately I came to the conclusion it’s really more of a reference book, just like your regular thesaurus. Once I figured that out, I realized it’s got a lot of promise. Think of it as one of those flip books for kids with the three parts — you flip the pages to put a cow’s head on an ostrich body with kangaroo legs. Pick and choose from various concepts to put together your own unique story idea.

Bottom Line
The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus lives up to its name as a unique reference guide to aid writers in developing story ideas.

Title: The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus: An Interactive Guide for Developing Ideas for Novels and Short Stories
Author: Fred White
Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books
Publication Date: September 30, 2014
Pages: 320
Category: Writing Fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble

.

Month in Review – November 2015

Since I decided to give NaNoWriMo another go this year, I didn’t get as much reading done as I normally would. Still, sixteen hours in a car, travelling to Northern California and back, provided some much-needed reading time last week. Here are the books I reviewed in November:

Return Once More by Trisha Leigh

Return Once More (The Historians #1) by Trisha Leigh

Return Once More (The Historians #1) by Trisha Leigh

4 Stars

About the Book
Title
: Return Once More
Series: The Historians #1
Author: Trisha Leigh
Publisher: Bloomsbury Spark
Pages: 289
Category: Young Adult SciFi/Time Travel/Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes and Noble | Bloomsbury

Synopsis
If you could learn the identity of your one true love—even though you will never meet— would you?

Years have passed since refugees from a ruined earth took to space, eventually settling a new system of planets. Science has not only made the leaps necessary to allow time travel, but the process engineered a strange side effect—predicting your one true love.

If you could save your one true love from an untimely death, would you be able to resist?

Sixteen-year-old Kaia Vespasian is an apprentice to the Historians—a group charged with using time travel to document the triumphs and failures of the past—and she can’t resist a peek at her long-dead soul mate in Ancient Egypt. Before she knows it, she’s broken every rule in the book, and the consequences of getting caught could destroymore than just her new romance.

Or would you have the strength to watch him die?

But when Kaia notices a fellow classmate snooping around in a time where he doesn’t belong, she suspects he has a secret of his own—and the conspiracy she uncovers could threaten the entire universe. If her experience has taught her anything, to changing history means facing the consequences. The Historians trained her to observe and record the past, but Kaia never guessed she might have to protect it— in a race across time to save her only chance at a future.

Bottom Line
Return Once More is an engaging time travel scifi romance with an intricate plot and intriguing characters.

—————————————————————-

Rival Love (Rival Love Series) by Natalie Decker

Rival Love (Rival Love #1) by Natalie Decker

Rival Love (Rival Love #1) by Natalie Decker

4 Stars

Title: Rival Love
Series:
Rival Love #1
Author: 
Natalie Decker
Publisher:
 Swoon Romance
Release Date: 
August 26, 2014
Pages:
286
Genre: 
Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 
4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis
Skylar Fletcher is a proud Harris Academy Bulldog! She has everything she’s ever wanted: a perfect boyfriend, great friends, and her dream college waiting for her in the fall. But nothing lasts forever. Skylar’s world shatters when her mom decides it’s time to move and drags Skylar, kicking and screaming, into Bobcat territory.

At Delmont High School, home of the Bobcats, Skylar has no friends and is often bullied. To make matters worse, her home life sucks thanks to all-star quarterback Caleb Morgan, nephew of her mom’s live-in boyfriend.

At first, Skylar and Caleb want nothing to do with one another. But they soon discover they’re not that different after all–and each is harboring a secret attraction to the other. But can a Bulldog and a Bobcat ever really be more than friends? And are Skylar and Caleb willing to risk everything to find out?

Rival Love is a debut young adult contemporary romance from Natalie Decker.

Bottom Line
Rival Love is an contemporary teen romance with themes of bullying, belonging, and finding love and acceptance for who you are.

—————————————————————-

Never Trust a Happy Song by Natalie Bina

Never Trust a Happy Song by Natalie Bina

Never Trust a Happy Song by Natalie Bina

3.5 Stars

Title: Never Trust a Happy Song
Author: 
Natalie Bina
Release Date: March 14, 2015
Pages: 180
Genre: 
Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis
When Cassidy Diamond is admitted to a prestigious summer program at Stanford University, she looks forward to being surrounded by people just like herself: smart, studious, and antisocial.

But when Cassidy is assigned to stay with the Harper family and meets their vivacious and uninhibited daughter Grace, the two girls clash at first sight.

Cassidy is determined to not let Grace distract her from her studies, while Grace wants to show Cassidy that maybe her grades aren’t all she has going for her, and that life might be about more than building the perfect resume.

Bottom Line
Never Trust a Happy Song is a realistic contemporary teen story about learning to let go in order to find yourself.

—————————————————————-

The Revolution of Ivy (Book of Ivy Series) by Amy Engel

The Revolution of Ivy (Book of Ivy #2) by Amy Engel

The Revolution of Ivy (Book of Ivy #2) by Amy Engel

5 Stars

Title: The Revolution of Ivy
Series: The Book of Ivy #2
Author: Amy Engel
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: November 3, 2015
Pages: 400
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboGoogle Books

Synopsis
**WARNING: Contains spoilers if you haven’t read book one**

Ivy Westfall is beyond the fence and she is alone. Abandoned by her family and separated from Bishop Lattimer, Ivy must find a way to survive on her own in a land filled with countless dangers, both human and natural. She has traded a more civilized type of cruelty–forced marriages and murder plots–for the bare-knuckled brutality required to survive outside Westfall’s borders.

But there is hope beyond the fence, as well. And when Bishop reappears in Ivy’s life, she must decide if returning to Westfall to take a final stand for what she believes is right is worth losing everything she’s fought for.

 Bottom Line
The Revolution of Ivy moves away from familiar territory, raising the stakes, and finishing the series on a high note.

—————————————————————-

Get Yourself Organized for Christmas by Kathi Lipp

Get Yourself Organized for Christmas by Kathi Lipp

Get Yourself Organized for Christmas by Kathi Lipp

2 Stars

Title: Get Yourself Organized for Christmas
Author: Kathi Lipp
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Pages: 144
Genre: Organizing/Holidays
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | AmazonBarnes & Noble

Synopsis
Have you lost your Christmas joy? Does the thought of jam-packed malls, maxed-out credit cards, overcrowded supermarkets, and endless to-do lists give you the feeling that maybe Scrooge was on to something?

In Get Yourself Organized for Christmas, Kathi Lipp provides easy-to-follow steps to reduce the stress of the holiday season, including tactics for how to

put together a holiday binder you’ll use year after year determine a budget that won’t break the bank gather your elf supplies get your gift list together (including ideas for various ages and relationships) collect your recipes and prep your kitchen

By putting into practice Kathi’s tricks and tips, you’ll finally be able to fully enjoy this most wonderful time of the year.

Bottom Line
A good book for someone who is really disorganized. If you’re looking for something revolutionary, it’s not here.

—————————————————————-

Abby and the Cute One (Backstage Pass) by Erin Butler

Abby and the Cute One (Backstage Pass #5) by Erin Butler

Abby and the Cute One (Backstage Pass #5) by Erin Butler

4 Stars

Title: Abby and the Cute One
Series: Backstage Pass #5
Author: Erin Butler
Publisher: Entangled Crush
Release Date: November 16, 2015
Pages: 172
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

Synopsis
He’s cute. He’s famous. And he could ruin everything…

Every member of Seconds to Juliet has a girlfriend-except for Nathan Strong. Now the band’s manager is leaning hard on “The Cute One” to play the role of the band’s heartthrob. With the band’s sales in decline, it’s up to Nathan to keep the fans’ fantasy alive.

The plan is to stage a fake relationship and a fake breakup, and then let the fans fight to be the one to mend Nathan’s broken heart. Just one problem. There’s another girl in the picture-one Nathan can’t stay away from. In private, Nathan’s stealing kisses with the band’s new opening act, Abby Curtis.

If they’re caught, no one wins. Abby will be fired, and the band might not recover the success they need to survive. But even with the pressure mounting, Nathan and Abby can’t stop themselves from stealing one more touch, one more kiss. And it’s only a matter of time before it all falls apart.

This Entangled Teen Crush book is as forbidden as the secret romance it contains! It has hot kisses, graphic language, and extreme misbehaving. DO NOT GET CAUGHT WITH THIS BOOK…unless you want everyone to know you believe in true love.

Bottom Line
Abby and the Cute One is a lighthearted contemporary romance that’s as adorable as the characters themselves.

—————————————————————-

Mirror X (The Van Winkle Project) by Karri Thompson

Mirror X (The Van Winkle Project #1) by Karri Thompson

Mirror X (The Van Winkle Project #1) by Karri Thompson

4 Stars

Title: Mirror X
Series: The Van Winkle Project #1
Author: 
Kerri Thompson
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: June 30, 2014
Pages: 360
Genre: 
Young Adult SciFi/Dystopian Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

Synopsis
I was born more than a thousand years ago. Put into a cryogenic tube at age seventeen, forgotten during a holocaust that decimated the world, I’ve finally been awakened to a more serene and peaceful future.

But things at the hospital are new and strange. And it’s starting to scare me.

Everyone is young. Everyone is banded and tracked. And everyone is keeping secrets.

The cute geneticist Michael Bennett might be the only good thing in this crazy new world where “life is precious” but no one seems free to live it. The problem is, I don’t think he’s being totally honest with me, either.

When I’m told only I can save the human race from extinction, it’s clear my freeze didn’t avoid a dreadful fate. It only delayed the horror…

Bottom Line
Mirror X is an interesting scifi/dystopian adventure with some unique aspects. I’m interested to see where this series goes.

—————————————————————-

Writing Deep Scenes: Plotting Your Story Through Action, Emotion, and Theme by Martha Alderson and Jordan E. Rosenfeld

Writing Deep Scenes - Plotting Your Story Through Action, Emotion, and Theme by Martha Alderson and Jordan E. Rosenfeld

Writing Deep Scenes – Plotting Your Story Through Action, Emotion, and Theme by Martha Alderson and Jordan E. Rosenfeld

3 Stars

Title: Writing Deep Scenes: Plotting Your Story Through Action, Emotion, and Theme
Authors: Martha Alderson and Jordan E. Rosenfeld
Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books
Publication Date: October 2, 2015
Pages: 248
Category: Writing Fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis
Take a Deep Dive into Plot and Scene and Improve Your Writing

Whether you’re planning your first novel or have already written a first draft, you need to master the concepts of plot and scene to truly realize your story’s potential. “Writing Deep Scenes” teaches you how to write strong, layered, and engaging scenes–the secret to memorable, page-turning plots. It’s filled with practical tools for building layers and nuance into your scenes, employing the right scene types at the right junctures, and developing a profound understanding of how plot and scene intertwine.

Inside you’ll learn: How scenes are comprised of three key layers: action, emotion, and theme.How to recognize each layer and weave them seamlessly into a scene.How to develop an intricate relationship between the action and emotion in every scene.How thematic imagery embedded in scenes increases a story’s tension and contributes to the story’s meaning.Using contemporary examples from a variety of genres, “Writing Deep Scenes” provides an effective method for plotting at the scene level. Use these techniques and enrich your fiction and memoirs with page-turning suspense and pathos, and explore new depths in every story you write.

Bottom Line
Writing Deep Scenes presents solid techniques for developing your plot and creating layered scenes, but the terminology takes a little getting used to.

.

Book Review – Writing Deep Scenes: Plotting Your Story Through Action, Emotion, and Theme by Martha Alderson and Jordan E. Rosenfeld

Writing Deep Scenes - Plotting Your Story Through Action, Emotion, and Theme by Martha Alderson and Jordan E. Rosenfeld

Writing Deep Scenes – Plotting Your Story Through Action, Emotion, and Theme by Martha Alderson and Jordan E. Rosenfeld

Synopsis
Take a Deep Dive into Plot and Scene and Improve Your Writing

Whether you’re planning your first novel or have already written a first draft, you need to master the concepts of plot and scene to truly realize your story’s potential. “Writing Deep Scenes” teaches you how to write strong, layered, and engaging scenes–the secret to memorable, page-turning plots. It’s filled with practical tools for building layers and nuance into your scenes, employing the right scene types at the right junctures, and developing a profound understanding of how plot and scene intertwine.

Inside you’ll learn: How scenes are comprised of three key layers: action, emotion, and theme.How to recognize each layer and weave them seamlessly into a scene.How to develop an intricate relationship between the action and emotion in every scene.How thematic imagery embedded in scenes increases a story’s tension and contributes to the story’s meaning.Using contemporary examples from a variety of genres, “Writing Deep Scenes” provides an effective method for plotting at the scene level. Use these techniques and enrich your fiction and memoirs with page-turning suspense and pathos, and explore new depths in every story you write.

My Review
I think I was looking for something different when I picked up this book. My goal was to learn techniques to help me add more depth to my writing, getting deeper into the emotions of my characters. While I don’t think the book delivered on that, I definitely think it has something to offer. The book delves into plotting using themes to drive your scenes, but there’s a lot of new terminology in here that took a little getting used to. The examples from published fiction help drive the points home, but I almost felt as if the examples overshadowed the lessons. Sometimes a page or more was devoted to showing the technique being presented.

Each chapter concludes with a summary of the topics covered, which is a nice refresher. All the pieces of what’s needed to write a compelling story are presented, chapter-by-chapter, but I would have liked a master checklist, or outline, or something, at the end that pulled everything together. That said, anyone can create their own while reading the book.

This book may be better suited toward someone just starting out because the terminology is quite different than other books on writing fiction. I had to keep referring back to remember what the terms meant and cross-referencing them against the terms I’m more familiar with.

Bottom Line
Writing Deep Scenes presents solid techniques for developing your plot and creating layered scenes, but the terminology takes a little getting used to.

Title: Writing Deep Scenes: Plotting Your Story Through Action, Emotion, and Theme
Authors: Martha Alderson and Jordan E. Rosenfeld
Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books
Publication Date: October 2, 2015
Pages: 248
Category: Writing Fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble

.

Book Review – Get Yourself Organized for Christmas by Kathi Lipp

Get Yourself Organized for Christmas by Kathi Lipp

Get Yourself Organized for Christmas by Kathi Lipp

Synopsis
Have you lost your Christmas joy? Does the thought of jam-packed malls, maxed-out credit cards, overcrowded supermarkets, and endless to-do lists give you the feeling that maybe Scrooge was on to something?

In Get Yourself Organized for Christmas, Kathi Lipp provides easy-to-follow steps to reduce the stress of the holiday season, including tactics for how to

put together a holiday binder you’ll use year after year determine a budget that won’t break the bank gather your elf supplies get your gift list together (including ideas for various ages and relationships) collect your recipes and prep your kitchen

By putting into practice Kathi’s tricks and tips, you’ll finally be able to fully enjoy this most wonderful time of the year.

——————————————————————-

My Review
Based on the title and subtitle I was expecting more. When I spotted this on NetGalley, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it and start organizing the heck out of my holiday. I was even happier when I started reading it and realized I was already ahead of the game simply by reading it in October. But my happiness dwindled and fizzled out around the fourth chapter. Author Kathi Lipp has some good ideas, but nothing earth shattering or revolutionary. Her primary tool is a three-ring binder with pockets and sheet protectors for organizing. In today’s digital age, it seemed a little old school, particularly since each chapter contains a section on decluttering. The first step in decluttering is going digital in my opinion. So I decided to keep a digital binder using Microsoft OneNote.

But the more I got into the book, the less I even did that. Things like organizing recipes in the binder seemed silly. I have a Pinterest board for those already. Same for gift ideas. I don’t need to rip out pages of magazines and stuff them in my binder if every catalog has a website now and ideas can easily be pinned to private boards. It’s also nothing I haven’t already been doing for years. I think the subtitle is right — they are simple steps. As in the very basic things most people are probably already doing anyway unless their incredibly disorganized and barely able to get out of the house most mornings.

That said, the part of the book that really spoke to me was the first few chapters where she recommends making a list of what’s really important. Asking your family for the things they cherish the most and doing away with the rest. We implemented that and have our list. We don’t need 76 different types of Christmas cookies. Each member picked one favorite and that’s what we’re going with.

Most of the rest of the book I could do without and ended up skimming some of it. I rarely write bad reviews because normally if I don’t connect with a book, I don’t finish it, and then I don’t feel like I can write a review on a book I didn’t finish. But with this book, I did end up reading the whole thing because I wanted to see what other great ideas I could find. In this case, less than half a book’s worth.

Bottom Line
A good book for someone who is really disorganized. If you’re looking for something revolutionary, it’s not here.

Disclaimer
I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influences my review.

——————————————————————-

About the Book
Title: Get Yourself Organized for Christmas
Author: Kathi Lipp
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Pages: 144
Genre: Organizing/Holidays
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | AmazonBarnes & Noble

——————————————————————-

Author Kathi Lipp

Author Kathi Lipp

About the Author
Kathi Lipp helps women renovate their life with projects for the soul. She is a national speaker and author who inspires thousands each year to take beneficial action steps in their personal, marital, and spiritual lives. Her wit and wisdom will give you new ways to:
•Avoid settling for less than God’s loving plan for your life.
•Develop new levels of warmth and tenderness with your spouse.
•Return fun and flirting to your marriage.
•Boost your confidence to follow God-given dreams and goals.
•Create an environment of encouragement in your friendships

Kathi is the author of The Husband Project: 21 Days to Loving Your Man on Purpose and with a Plan and The Marriage Project: 21 Days to Bring Back the Love, Bring Back the Laughter, Bring Back the Lingerie (coming December 2009)with two more books under contract . In addition, her articles have appeared in Today’s Christian Woman, Bay Area Parent, Focus on the Family, Discipleship Journal, and Christian Parenting Today.

Church leaders and women’s ministry directors rely on Kathi to help women move from living out of obligation to enjoying godly passion.

Kathi and her husband, Roger, are parents of four kids and live in San Jose, California. They are members of Church on the Hill where Roger is the programming director of the worship arts ministry.

Where to Find Kathi Lipp
GoodreadsWebsite
.

Month in Review – October 2015

October is by far my favorite month of the year. I love when the temperatures, sort of, sometimes, get cooler in San Diego, plus Halloween. But mostly it’s all about the pumpkin. Pumpkin spice lattes, This Pumpkin Walked into a Bar, pumpkin pasta, muffins, pie, and more. I also managed to do a little more reading this month than I did earlier in the summer. These are the books I reviewed in October:

Mad Love 2 by Colet Abedi

Mad Love 2 (Mad Love Series #2) by Colete Abedi

4 Stars

Title: Mad Love 2
Series: Mad Love #2
Author: Colet ABedi
Publisher: Bird Street Books
Pages: 262
Category: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis
Heartbroken by the handsome and enigmatic Clayton Astor Sinclair, Sophie Walker has put her whirlwind romance with him in the Maldives behind her and is determined to focus on her career as an artist.

But when her new job in the south of France turns out to be too good to be true, she can’t help but wonder if she is making a mistake. Their passion cannot be denied, but when Clayton shuts her out after a family tragedy, Sophie is determined to fight for what is right. She must defy all odds to find her own happily ever after. 

This book is intended for mature audiences.

Bottom Line
A worthy follow-up to Mad Love, it’s intense, emotional, and delves deeper into the characters we’ve come to know. The jury is still out on whether or not I love them.

—————————————————————-

Pepped Up Forever (Pepper Jones Series) by Ali Dean

Pepped Up Forever (Pepper Jones #5) by Ali Dean

4.5 Stars

Title: Pepped Up Forever
Series:  Pepper Jones #5
Author: Ali Dean
Release Date: October 1, 2015
Pages: 180
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis
This is the fifth and final book in the Pepper Jones series, and it’s one you don’t want to miss.

Pepper Jones is ready to start breaking some records. She’ll be a junior in college, and if she wants to run professionally when she graduates, it’s time to step things up a notch. This time around, she knows it won’t be accomplished by ramping up her training. While Pepper’s hoping for a race day breakthrough, she wonders if there’s a mental barrier holding her back, and if so, how is she supposed to confront it?

Meanwhile, Jace Wilder wants Pepper back any way he can have her, but he’s reluctant to bulldoze his way into her life having already crushed her once (okay, probably a few more times than that) before. More scenes from Jace’s point of view in the book shed a new perspective into the character Pepper fans love to hate, and hate to love, delving into those layers he’s only given glimpses of in the past.

The Brockton crew is growing up. Zoe and Wes. Jenny and Rollie. Lexi and Brax. Bunny and Wallace. Pepper and ??? It’s time to find out what Pepper’s happily ever after will be.

Bottom Line
A worthy ending to a great series.

—————————————————————-

The Rebel by Adrienne Giordano

The Rebel by Adrienne Giordano

4 Stars

Title: The Rebel
Author: Adrienne Giordano
Publisher: Harlequin Intrigue
Release Date: October 1, 2015
Pages: 234
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Rating: 4 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | GooglePlay | Harlequin

Synopsis
Bad to the bone…in all the right ways

A brilliant civil lawyer, David Hennings has always been the outsider—at odds with his wealthy family, shunning relationships, defying convention as a sexy leather-jacketed biker. Which is why sculptor Amanda LeBlanc agrees to his request to reconstruct a skull from a cold case murder. The instant heat between them is scorching.

But once Amanda takes the job and gets too close to the rebellious attorney, her carefully balanced life is upended by a series of methodical attacks. Someone doesn’t want her to finish the job. Now David will risk everything not to lose the woman he unknowingly put in jeopardy.

Bottom Line
The Rebel is a mystery wrapped in a romantic suspense with a big dose of fully-developed characters.

—————————————————————-

How to Say I Love You Out Loud by Karole Cozzo

How to Say I Love You Out Loud by Karole Cozzo

5 Stars

Title: How to Say I Love You Out Loud
Author: Karole Cozzo
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release Date: August 4, 2015
Pages: 240
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

Synopsis
When Jordyn Michaelson’s autistic brother joins her at her elite school, she’s determined not to let anyone know they’re related. Even if that means closing herself off to all her closest friends, including charming football stud Alex Colby.

But despite her best intentions, she just can’t shake the memory of kissing Alex last summer, and the desire to do it again.

Can Jordyn find the courage to tell Alex how she really feels—and the truth about her family—before he slips away forever?

 Bottom Line
How to Say I Love You Out Loud is an emotional look at finding your own words and the strength to say them out loud.

—————————————————————-

How Fiction Works by Oakley Hall

How Fiction Works by Oakley Hall

3.5 Stars

Title: How Fiction Works
Author: Oakley Hall
Publisher: Story Press
Publication Date: January 5, 2001
Pages: 240
Category: Writing Fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis
In How Fiction Works, Oakley Hall expands upon and broadens the instruction that made The Art and Craft of Novel Writing so successful.

This new book covers all forms and lengths of fiction, probes deeper into every topic, offers new examples and includes exercises and the end of every chapter. He explains the basic and finer points of the fiction-writing process from word choice and imagery to authority and viewpoint.

The book is divided into three sections, beginning with “The Basics.” In this section, Hall explores the micro elements of storytelling, such as details, word choice, images, symbol and metaphor. He then moves on! to “The Elements,” which covers the primary elements of fiction: point of view, characterization and plot. Citing numerous examples from classic and contemporary work, he shows readers how these elements function separately and in concert. Finally, the focus shifts to the specific types of fiction – short shorts, short stories, novellas, and novels – also known as “The Forms.” Each form presents a unique challenge to the writer, and Hall explains how to meet those challenges.

Beginning, as well as more advanced writers, will find much to like about this book.

Bottom Line
How Fiction Works includes sound advice for fiction writers with illustrative examples. It’s definitely worth a read.

—————————————————————-

The Book of Ivy (Book of Ivy Series) by Amy Engel

The Book of Ivy (Book of Ivy #1) by Amy Engel

4 Stars

Title: The Book of Ivy
Series: The Book of Ivy #1
Author: Amy Engel
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: November 11, 2014
Pages: 304
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo BooksiTunesGoogle Books

Bottom Line
The Book of Ivy is a familiar dystopian tale with enough of its own uniqueness to set it apart from the rest.

Synopsis
After a brutal nuclear war, the United States was left decimated. A small group of survivors eventually banded together, but only after more conflict over which family would govern the new nation. The Westfalls lost. Fifty years later, peace and control are maintained by marrying the daughters of the losing side to the sons of the winning group in a yearly ritual.

This year, it is my turn.

My name is Ivy Westfall, and my mission is simple: to kill the president’s son—my soon-to-be husband—and restore the Westfall family to power.

But Bishop Lattimer is either a very skilled actor or he’s not the cruel, heartless boy my family warned me to expect. He might even be the one person in this world who truly understands me. But there is no escape from my fate. I am the only one who can restore the Westfall legacy.

Because Bishop must die. And I must be the one to kill him…

.

Book Review – How Fiction Works by Oakley Hall

How Fiction Works by Oakley Hall

How Fiction Works by Oakley Hall

Synopsis
In How Fiction Works, Oakley Hall expands upon and broadens the instruction that made The Art and Craft of Novel Writing so successful.

This new book covers all forms and lengths of fiction, probes deeper into every topic, offers new examples and includes exercises and the end of every chapter. He explains the basic and finer points of the fiction-writing process from word choice and imagery to authority and viewpoint.

The book is divided into three sections, beginning with “The Basics.” In this section, Hall explores the micro elements of storytelling, such as details, word choice, images, symbol and metaphor. He then moves on! to “The Elements,” which covers the primary elements of fiction: point of view, characterization and plot. Citing numerous examples from classic and contemporary work, he shows readers how these elements function separately and in concert. Finally, the focus shifts to the specific types of fiction – short shorts, short stories, novellas, and novels – also known as “The Forms.” Each form presents a unique challenge to the writer, and Hall explains how to meet those challenges.

Beginning, as well as more advanced writers, will find much to like about this book.

My Review
I originally borrowed this book from the library and ended up purchasing it because it had some really solid information. Oakley Hall uses examples, good and bad, to illustrate his point. The first third of the book I found outstandingly useful, particularly the section on scene setting and choosing descriptive details. I also found the center section about symbolism and indirection to be an area where my writing is weak, and it gave me some good ideas. The section on characterization didn’t come across as quite as strong for me. I’m not sure why I found it lacking, I just know that I struggled to get through it and ended up skimming portions. I completely glossed over the short story section as well since I don’t have much interest in that topic. However, the parts I found useful more than justified the price I paid for the book.

As the director of writing programs at U.C. Irvine for 22 years as well as the author of 21 novels, Oakley Hall knows a thing or two about writing fiction. I love that he uses examples of both good writing that illustrates his point using those that seem to break the rules, explaining why in his opinion, it doesn’t work.

Bottom Line
How Fiction Works includes sound advice for fiction writers with illustrative examples. It’s definitely worth a read.

Title: How Fiction Works
Author: Oakley Hall
Publisher: Story Press
Publication Date: January 5, 2001
Pages: 240
Category: Writing Fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble

Book Review – Design & Illustration by Mark Sgarbossa

Design & Illustration by Mark Sgarbossa

Design & Illustration by Mark Sgarbossa

Synopsis
From rock and roll to corporate ID, artist Mark Sgarbossa shows a broad set of skills and styles in this comprehensive look at his work.

——————————————————–

My Review
Mark Sgarbossa’s art is vibrant, thought-provoking, energetic, at times enigmatic, and extraordinary. He’s pulled together a collection of his work in an oversized trade paperback. Design & Illustration by Mark Sgarbossa is a treat for the eyes, with limited text, it’s 250+ pages of pure visual confection.

With clients such as skateboarder Tony Hawk, bands Kiss, Rascal Flatts, and AC/DC, and 3 Doors Down, musical artists such as Jason Mraz, Carrie Underwood, Ottmar Liebert, and Rod Stewart, and organizations like Target Stores, San Diego State University, Vans, Warp Magazine, and House of Blues, the art is as varied as the clientele. Below are just a few examples of the hundreds of pieces of art on display in Design & Illustration.

Takahashi Band Poster

Takahashi Band Poster

Design & Illustration Teaser 4

Miami Heat

Jason Mraz Poster

Jason Mraz Poster

Ice Cube

Ice Cube

Bottom Line
Design & illustration is a stunning collection of some of the best pop culture art around by an insanely talented artist.

——————————————————–

Title: Design & Illustration
Author: Mark Sgarbossa
Release Date: October 30, 2014
Pages: 266
Category: Art & Illustration
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links:  Amazon | CreateSpace

——————————————————–

Illustrator Mark Sgarbossa

Illustrator Mark Sgarbossa

About the Author
Mark Sgarbossa is an award-winning artist from San Diego, California. A partial list of his clients include Jason Mraz, Target Stores, Tony Hawk, Franz Ferdinand, Major League Baseball, San Diego State University, Snowboarder Magazine, 3 Doors Down, and AC/DC.

In addition to art, Mark is a talented musician. He played rhythm guitar and sang vocals in the indie band The Shirlies as well as playing synth and singing in the live electro duo ROTATOR.

Where to Find Mark Sgarbossa
Website | Email |LinkedIn | Reedsy

World Building – Part 1

IMG_8888Invariably, the first question anyone asks someone writing a novel is, “What’s it about?” not realizing what a loaded question that is.  How do you take an 80,000+ word novel and distill it into a single sentence? This is a problem every author runs into. But a novel is primarily about four things: 1. Setting, 2. Characters, 3. Goal, and 4. Dilemma, although not necessarily in that order.

I set about defining the setting first. I knew the world before I even had my first character. I wanted to set my story in a world after global warming. Imagine what might happen if we can’t stop climate change. If the United States devolved into a second civil war sparked by government regulations to curb greenhouse gasses. And from there, the setting took root and grew.

World building is my favorite part of the writing process. I get to decide how the government works, what sort of dwellings people live in, what careers they have. For me, world building starts not with envisioning the end result, but with following a natural progression from here to there. I did a lot of research, not only on what’s happening now, but on technology that could be used in the future to help us recover from climate change.

I stumbled across this article on Israelis desalinating ocean water to create drinking water, and suddenly, The Union was set at the coasts, hugging a strip around the perimeter of the country. So much fell into place after that decision was made. One article sparked an idea that spawned a whole world building exercise that turned into a novel.

The Writing Process Blog Tour

Screenshot 2014-07-10 09.03.23My beautiful blogger/gluten-free/writer friend, Debi Smith, invited me to participate in The Writing Process Blog Tour. The Tour began some time last year, with each participant answering four questions about their work in progress then inviting a few more writers to participate. You can trace it back it its roots if you’re really interested (or bored). You can read Debi’s post and see who invited her on her blog, Chocolate Wasteland.

What are you currently writing?
I’m working on final edits to The Union, the first book in a young adult adventure series. It’s set 100 years after global warming and a second civil war have reshaped the United States into the Union, a green-energy, utopian society that hugs the coastlines of the former U.S.

I’ve been working on it for more than three years, revising it based on feedback from beta readers and my fabulous critique group, and now it’s almost done. I’ve already drafted books 2-4 in the series and will work with my critique group on the second book next.

What makes your work different?
While some have tried to classify it as dystopian, it’s really not. I know there are some elements that fit into that category, but the book isn’t anywhere near as dark and hopeless as almost everything else in that genre. Instead, it’s an optimistic adventure that just happens to be set in the future. It compares and contrasts a semi-socialistic utopian society with a world devoid of law and order, but with complete autonomy.

My characters stretch the upper age limit of young adults, straddling the young adult/new adult line. And while there is a love triangle, it’s very different than almost every other one I’ve read. The two boys are as different as the two worlds they come from and it’s not so much about a choice between two boys as it is a choice between fate and desire, with each boy representing one of those elements.

Why do you write what you do?
I don’t like rules. Sure, there are rules we have to follow. I can’t write a story that wanders aimlessly, without world building or character arcs, but I didn’t want to be constrained to the conventions of the world we live in now. By setting it in the future, I get to make up my own rules, decide which of our technological wonder devices survive and which don’t. I get to create a society that functions the way I want it to and choose what happens when things fall apart.

Once I decided when I wanted my story to take place, I had to think about the logical flow of the world we live in now and what it might take to get us to my imaginary world 150 years from now. That was really fun. It was a chance to take the what-if scenario on climate change to one possible conclusion.

As to why I chose young adults as my characters, well, that’s a post all its own.

How does your writing process work?
It’s an evolving process, but I think after drafting four books, editing three, and running one through my critique group, I have something that works well for me.

I always start with a general idea of what I want to accomplish with the book. I visual the opening and the ending and then decide on at least three major plot points. Once I have that, I do a quick rough outline, draft my character arcs, and begin the detailed outline in Scrivener. Scrivener is easily the best $50 I’ve ever spent.

Screenshot 2014-07-10 15.19.30

When my outline is done, I create my writing soundtrack. Every book has a theme song, the music that feeds my soul as I write, and the soundtrack builds on the theme song. I conduct any research I’ve identified during my outlining, scour the internet for photographic inspiration, if needed, and then pop in my ear buds, launch my soundtrack, and begin drafting each scene.

When I realize I need to make some changes in what I’ve already written, I jot down notes of things to fix on the next draft. I always run through the first draft without any revising at all. Then I go through three or four more drafts before seeking feedback through my critique group. After incorporating all of their feedback, I do several more editing rounds and send it off to my copy editor for final cleaning.

Who’s Next?
I’m tagging some of my favorite fellow YA writers, Jen Glenn, K.A. Cozzo, and Randi Cooley Wilson.

Book Review – Wired for Story by Lisa Cron

Synopsis
This guide reveals how writers can utilize cognitive storytelling strategies to craft stories that ignite readers’ brains and captivate them through each plot element.

  Imagine knowing what the brain craves from every tale it encounters, what fuels the success of any great story, and what keeps readers transfixed. Wired for Story reveals these cognitive secrets—and it’s a game-changer for anyone who has ever set pen to paper.

 The vast majority of writing advice focuses on “writing well” as if it were the same as telling a great story. This is exactly where many aspiring writers fail—they strive for beautiful metaphors, authentic dialogue, and interesting characters, losing sight of the one thing that every engaging story must do: ignite the brain’s hardwired desire to learn what happens next. When writers tap into the evolutionary purpose of story and electrify our curiosity, it triggers a delicious dopamine rush that tells us to pay attention. Without it, even the most perfect prose won’t hold anyone’s interest.

Backed by recent breakthroughs in neuroscience as well as examples from novels, screenplays, and short stories, Wired for Story offers a revolutionary look at story as the brain experiences it. Each chapter zeroes in on an aspect of the brain, its corresponding revelation about story, and the way to apply it to your storytelling right now.

My Review
Billed as The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence, I have to say it delivers on that promise. Wired for Story presents a scientific argument for why we love a good story, and what makes a story good. Lisa Cron includes the science behind her arguments and examples that demonstrate her point. This isn’t so much a “how to” book so much as a “why” book and understanding why is the first step in figuring out how to.

Just some of the topics she covers are hooking the reader, getting to the heart of your characters’ feelings, and why our brain requires everything to connect. In other words, anything that doesn’t move the plot forward, contribute to characterization, or world building as it directly relates to plot or character, doesn’t belong in the story. That’s something all writers know, but Lisa Cron shows us why, scientifically, anything that doesn’t will quickly kill your story.

Bottom Line
Wired for Story is a great book for understanding the evolution of story, and why our brains are wired to read or hear a story in a particular way. It helps us understand why books are formulaic and why some that break the mold work, and others don’t. This is almost the first book any aspiring author should read, before reading about technique.

Title: Wired for Story
Author: Lisa Cron
Publisher: Random House, LLC
Pages: 272
Category: Writing Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links to Purchase: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble

What Does it Mean if I Don’t Suffer from Writer’s Block?

Writers BlockI’ve been seeing a plethora of articles lately on writer’s block and how to overcome it. Sometimes I’ll skim them, but more often than not, I’ll move on without reading them. Because I don’t suffer from writer’s block.

Merriam-Webster defines writer’s block as: a psychological inhibition preventing a writer from proceeding with a piece.

Just yesterday, Publisher’s Weekly posted this piece on seven steps to overcoming writer’s block. I didn’t even bother to click the link in my email. My problem is that I have too many words and ideas in my head. My first draft of my first novel was nearly 120K words. It’s now down to a much more manageable 90K, but could still use some trimming. The problem is, with every draft and every cut I make, I think of more things that would be fun to include.

In fact, I googled “What does it mean if I don’t suffer from writer’s block” and the first five pages of hits were all about getting rid of writer’s block. I realize this isn’t really a problem. And I’m probably lucky, except what I DO suffer from is a lack of focus. I could easily spend ten hours a day writing or editing. But instead, I spend my time on Twitter, Facebook, googling, emailing with my friends, or just generally screwing off.

Luckily there are pages and pages of articles on how to be a more disciplined writer. I wonder how long it will take me to read them all.

Come to think it, that sounds exactly like Merriam-Webster’s definition of writer’s block — my distraction is preventing me from proceeding with my writing. Maybe I’ll go google some more definitions.